Dumb Leadership Mistakes Smart Managers Avoid


7 Dumb Leadership Mistakes Smart Managers Avoid

Martin Zwilling, Forbes Contributor

Many professionals in business, from startups to multi-nationals, assume that team leader or executive is an appointed position, and the skills come with the title. In reality, leadership is best demonstrated while not in a position of authority, and is a skill that must be sharpened every day of your life.

Most experts agree that leadership, as perceived by people around you, is more about behavior than it is about specific skills or knowledge. Darryl Rosen, in his new book “Table for Three?” illustrates this with humor for each of fifty dumb mistakes that smart managers don’t make. The leadership one is setting a poor example by your own actions (“Do as I say, not as I do.”)

His rendition, including the following seven examples of poor leadership behavior, that I have seen all too often in startups, illustrate how your actions affect others around you:

  1. Blame others for everything. An entrepreneur’s passion for an idea often prompts them to blame others or external events for setbacks, rather than themselves, so that they can maintain some semblance of self-esteem and control. This “attributional bias” may be understandable, but is perceived by associates as poor leadership.
  2. Worry and fret about everything. Precious little of what we worry and fret about ever happens, so don’t share every concern with associates. At best, it comes across as lack of confidence, or more likely sounds likely trying to make excuses for possible later failures. Team members want leaders who calm their worries, not amplify them.
  3. Criticize others and the company. Managers who speak critically of team members, customers, friends or family members, have something going on within them that needs to be examined. There is some aspect of self that they find unacceptable. Real leaders are recognized as willing to look in the mirror, and learn from what they see.
  4. Complain about being overwhelmed. Overwhelm is a feeling that always precedes growth, and is a state in which your brain is developing new pathways and connections. Starting a business or a new organization will always cause self-doubt and insecurity. Real leaders embrace and manage these feelings, rather than complain to associates.
  5. Do 10 things at a time in a mediocre fashion. Entrepreneurs or managers who claim to be able to do multiple things at a time must never use this as an excuse for poor quality. Associates will quickly conclude that mediocrity is good enough. Even one task done with mediocrity can be the kiss of death for any business, or any career.
  6. Appear disorganized and manage things haphazardly. Doing things haphazardly is prone to mistakes. In business, when you are making mistakes, it’s costing you time and money. With associates, making mistakes will cost you in productivity and morale, and will kill their image of you as a leader. Worse yet, associates will follow your example.
  7. Fail to see the positives in others. The key here is to maintain a positive mindset. Leadership is all about finding positives, for business growth, for competitive advantage, and people development in your organization. Managers and entrepreneurs need everyone in their organization accentuating the positive, not amplifying the negatives.

Leadership and improvement is about taking small steps forward, and evolving just a bit each day. Think evolution, not revolution. Anyone can change one behavior a month, or eliminate one mistake, and suddenly you too can be an “overnight success.”

Of course, correcting leadership mistakes is only the beginning. There are at least 49 other ways to go wrong in navigating workplace relationships, problem-solving approaches, time management, credibility, and business effectiveness. How many have you avoided recently in your job?

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Raise the red flag, cut out the hypocrisy!


oil palms in malaysia

Raise the red flag

On The Beat By WONG CHUN WAI

Cut out the hypocrisy in the anti-palm oil campaign.

THERE’S no such thing as a national tree in Malaysia but if ever there has to be one, I would propose the oil palm tree. It may have originated from elsewhere, like the rubber tree, but it has been a miracle tree for this country.

Many Malaysians are aware that palm oil is used as raw material for cooking oil and soap but not many would know that it is also used in the making of instant noodles, cookies, biscuits, candles, washing powder and even medical and cosmetic products, including anti-ageing applications.

Even the tree’s trunks can be used for making furniture.

Palm oil can also be used to create biodiesel. Since 2007, all diesel sold in Malaysia must contain 5% palm oil, putting us at the forefront of promoting biodiesel.

But more importantly, the Malaysian palm oil industry earned a healthy RM60bil in 2010. This was an increase of RM10bil from 2009. Revenue is projected to reach RM80bil and the perception is that the industry will eventually be the country’s biggest money earner.

The income generated by the high price of palm oil has led to a mini economic boom in rural townships throughout the country and benefited the ordinary people.

In simple language, it means an assurance of jobs and income, with a guaranteed daily wage of RM90 in rural areas where the cost of living is low.

In contrast, as shown in some studies, the rural population of many developing countries often earns a mere RM7 per day and employment is sometimes limited or seasonal.

The fact is that while over one billion people have scarce access to food and jobs globally, in Malaysia, we rely on 300,000 foreigners to take on jobs we shun. This includes jobs in the palm oil industry.

In Malaysia, our concern is not lack of food but how to cut down on intake of carbohydrates to reduce our waistline. Slimming centres have become a multi-million ringgit business because of this.

For the foreign labourers working in oil palm plantations here, their employment means there will be food daily for over a million family members in Indonesia, Bangla­desh, the Philippines and other countries.

Oil palm is also important for the Malaysian smallholders and the retail business, which will enjoy the trickle-down effect. And the Government will gain as well, through the collection of corporate taxes, which are then used for education, health and infrastructure development.

It means a lot for the children of the smallholders and foreign workers who know they won’t have to go to bed hungry each night.

Over the past few months, however, their livelihood has been threatened by Western non-governmental organisations who have stepped up their campaign against Malaysia’s palm oil industry.

This time, they have widened their target audience to include even primary school children in the United States, Europe and Australia.

If the argument in the past was about health, this time the campaign has shifted towards the purported deforestation of land and the killing of orang utan. Naturally, these issues would be more emotionally appealing and fashionable given the global concern for environmental issues.

No one in his right mind would argue against protecting the environment but the red flag, rather than the green flag, has to be raised when the real issue is whether these NGOs are being funded by lobbyists from the soy bean, sunflower and other seed oil competitors.

There is a lot of hypocrisy here, really. Orang utans may have been affected but look at the shocking decline in the number of koalas in Australia as a result of human clearing and other factors.

It has been reported that the number of koalas has dropped by 95% since the 1990s and that only 43,000 of these tree-dwelling marsupial are left on the mainland. In southeast Queensland, the number has dropped from 25,000 to 4,000 in a decade. Just Google for more information.

Even the world’s 1.5 billion cows are being blamed. There’s a 400-page report quoting the United Nations, which has identified the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle as a huge threat to the climate, forests and wild life. And they are being blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, too, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.

The report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, surveys the damage done by cows, sheep, chickens, pigs and goats.

Livestock is responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together – and there’s a lot of cows and sheep in Australia, I believe.

The Independent newspaper in Britain reported that burning fuel to produce fertilisers to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it, and clearing vegetation for grazing, produces 9% of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.

And wind and manure from livestock account for more than one-third of emissions of another gas, methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

But I feel that the greatest contributor to global warming has been left out – the great appetite of developed countries for fossil fuel, which is essential for their continued economic performance. The need to continue their lifestyle contributes to the huge emission of CO2.

It makes them look intelligent talking about orang utan and deforestation in exotic Borneo, which many might not even be able to locate on the map, while drinking Dom Perignon at fancy parties after being dropped off by chauffeur-driven gas-guzzling limousines.

Double standards are the stuff of the powerful?


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Diplomatic double-talk

Behind The Headlines By BUNN NAGARA

Double-dealing and double standards are the stuff of the powerful in the world at large.

THERE is something of a double bind when a troubling situation and the common understanding of it are both flawed.

For example, the uprising in Syria and the opposition to a draft UN resolution calling on President Bashar al-Assad to step down have typically been misrepresented.

Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution backed by Western and Arab countries at the UN Security Council (UNSC) last weekend calling on Assad to step down. The usual recriminations about their “betrayal” of the Syrian people followed.

One allegation was that Russia and China were merely opposing the resolution for their own selfish interests. Both countries were said to have major investments in Assad’s Syria, so they would not upset Damascus.

But if regime change were to come anyway, Moscow and Beijing would be as savvy as anyone to invest in a new Syria.

According to some Western accounts, regime change would come sooner rather than later.

Then Russia and China were said to be anxious to block a Syrian uprising only because they feared a similar outcome at home.

However, governments have never had the problem of contradicting foreign and domestic policies. Besides, Syrian dissidents have no known links with Chechen or Uighur militants.

China was also said to have gone along with Russia’s objection because Beijing placed a higher priority in maintaining strong ties with Moscow than with Washington or London.

A slightly more nuanced interpretation of that argument was that Russia and China sought to counter yet another Western-led effort to use the Security Council as a rubber stamp to serve US-Israeli interests in West Asia.

Overall, Western fury at Russian and Chinese non-compliance portrayed their vetoes as abhorrent and aberrant.

In the process, other reasons were conveniently ignored.

Russia and China have reasons for vetoing the draft resolution, and these may include those cited above. But their main reason patently relates to their experience of having been caught out in similar hostile adventures before.

The Western camp has argued that the resolution did not authorise military action against the Syrian government. But given recent experience in other Muslim countries, that is neither an assurance nor a selling point for the resolution.

In December 2000, UNSC Resolution 1333 on Afghanistan was supported by Russia and the US. It was criticised by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and China and Malaysia (then a UNSC non-permanent member) abstained.

The reservations then were that the Afghan people would suffer most from the resolution, and that peace talks with the ruling Taliban would be scuppered. A year later, war came.

Several UNSC resolutions on Iraq later led to its illegal invasion and controversial occupation. China, France and Russia by then had serious reservations about such resolutions, with doubts about whether war could be authorised.

US and British diplomats assured the world that the latest Iraq resolution need not authorise war. War came nonetheless, on spurious grounds and with disastrous consequences.

By 2007, China and Russia had had enough of such Western diplomatic shenanigans. They both vetoed a resolution tabled by the US and Britain on Myanmar.

Then on to Libya in 2011: a resolution that was supposed to have authorised only a “no-fly zone” became a hostile military action to “protect civilians”, which in turn meant war – again.

It was another exercise in regime change, whatever official words were used for the effort: of a country “in breach of UN resolutions”, one’s “responsibility to protect”, or “remaining seized of the matter”.

By 2012, it would be perverse for Russia and China, or any other country outside the Western orbit of client states, to remain oblivious to the ulterior motives behind UNSC resolutions.

Days before Morocco had tabled the draft resolution on Syria, both Russia and China had already indicated their opposition to it, so there were no grounds for the sense of shock and horror that followed.

Much of Western media reporting on the issue continues to miss some salient points. By the time of last year’s Western-led attack on Libya, if not before, at least one important lesson should have become clear.

And that is how Western encouragement of local uprisings in several Muslim countries can doom dissidents relying on uncertain support from abroad.

With Libya, both sides were armed and not above using violence against civilians caught in the middle.

It also quickly became clear that the anti-government forces had no hope of winning without foreign military support. But at the same time, such support is illegal in attacking a sovereign state.

In the Western perspective, the case for providing military support was expressed as “not betraying” the people who had chosen to fight their government.

This would have the predictable effect of encouraging more militants in other countries to wage war against the state, regardless of their chances of victory and the undemocratic nature of their rebellion.

Now Syria has proven the point. Without foreign military assistance, the innocent and virtuous masses would be said to have been abandoned to mass slaughter.

And on it goes. It has the chilling and compelling effect of obliging, even blackmailing, all other countries to attack any particular country regarded as ripe for regime change.

With Syria, the government’s military strength to the opposition’s capacity to mount a physical challenge is 10 times that of Libya before. If the sponsors of the failed resolution asking Assad to go quietly still insist it does not require war to be effective, they must be lying.

Their intelligence agencies should have informed them of the odds on the ground in Syria by now. Russia and China have already called their bluff.

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